'Trump’s doppelgänger' Ron DeSantis has crushed any hopes that he's a 'Reagan Republican': conservative
In a report published by Axios on March 3, journalists Mike Allen and Josh Kraushaar described, in detail, former President Donald Trump's game plan for derailing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the 2024 GOP presidential primary — that is, assuming that DeSantis decides to run. An Axios source described by Allen and Kraushaar as a "Trump confidant" and interviewed on condition of anonymity told the publication that one of Trump's strategies is using DeSantis' "Reagan Republican" past against him and trying to convince GOP primary voters that the Florida governor isn't MAGA enough.
That source told Axios, "There's a pre-Trump Ron, and there's a post-Trump Ron. He used to be a Reagan Republican. That's where he comes from. He's now awkwardly trying to square his views up with the populist nationalist feeling of that party."
Being a Reagan Republican used to be a badge of honor in the GOP. During the 2008 Republican primary debates, the candidates were mocked by pundits for talking about former President Ronald Reagan incessantly. Even some conservative Reagan admirers believed that the candidates went overboard in trying to show how Reagan-influenced they were.
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But that was before Trump gave the GOP a MAGA makeover and made it a party that ideologically, is much closer to Patrick Buchanan's isolationist "America First" paleoconservative ideology than it is to Reagan conservatism.
In an opinion column published by the Daily Beast on March 17, Never Trump conservative Matt Lewis argues that any hopes of DeSantis being a "Reagan conservative" were crushed during a recent appearance on Tucker Carlson's Fox News show. DeSantis, interviewed by Carlson, vehemently attacked President Joe Biden's Ukraine policy and declared that the United States has no interest in helping Ukraine militarily.
"Ron DeSantis' declaration to Tucker Carlson this week that the war in Ukraine is a 'territorial dispute' not in America's 'vital national interests' signals that his Republican primary strategy is to run as Donald Trump's doppelgänger — minus the gross tweets, attempted coups, and election losses," Lewis explains. "Many of us have been saying for a long time that DeSantis offers Republicans everything Trump does, only in a younger and more competent package. In that regard, DeSantis' decision to ape Trump is not surprising at all."
Lewis goes on to lament that as a "Reagan conservative" and a "Never Trumper," he finds it "demoralizing" that DeSantis is "lying and pandering to the America First base to win the Republican nomination." The Florida governor, according to Lewis, "has committed to running as a Trump-Tucker clone."
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“DeSantis clearly believes that the Trump-Tucker side of the argument is gaining steam," the Beast columnist observes. "What is more, DeSantis wants the contrast to be about his identity — not policy. If you love Trump's accomplishments but want someone who won't send a bunch of crazy tweets, Ron wants you to know he's your guy. Conversely, he wants to diminish any sense of contrast with Trump on policy issues…. DeSantis' decision to position himself right next to Trump, while still staying ever-so-slightly on the sane side of Trump, theoretically positions him to win over everyone except Trump's diehard MAGA base."
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Reagan Matt Lewis' full Daily Beast column at this link (subscription required).
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